Scaling access to justice research collaboration

Globally, the evidence to increase access to justice is sparse, especially compared to other essential services like education and health. However, without the ability to access fair justice systems, people are left without a means to resolve grievances, or to protect their legal rights, their livelihoods, their assets, or their family’s physical security. This lack of protection in their day-to-day life leaves them open to abuse. The growing number of legal needs surveys clearly indicates that across countries and regions, legal problems tend to be concentrated in poorer populations, leaving them further vulnerable to social challenges.

From 2005 to 2013, only 1.8% of aid globally was devoted to justice. Much of that support focused on state institutions in a handful of countries, largely omitting front-line and civil society efforts. With the Sustainable Development Goals, the international community has, for the first time, recognized a universal commitment to achieve access to justice. Making that goal a reality will require a stronger evidence base at the national and global levels about how to scale up basic legal services and ensure access to justice for all.

This project takes up that challenge through support to two complementary efforts. The first involves local research institutions in Kenya, Sierra Leone, and South Africa that will lead country case studies to improve understanding of the relative quality, impact, and cost of services and, in turn, the appropriate “bundle” of services to scale. The case studies will focus on legal problems with strong gender dimensions, such as access to justice for spousal and child support cases, and property and tenancy disputes.

The second related effort involves the country research teams meeting at key moments in the research process to share experiences and findings and refine common research tools. A research institution with global expertise will convene the exchanges and support efforts of the individual country teams, with a view to developing a broader set of comparative findings and recommendations that can feed ongoing global debates on scaling access to justice. Taken together, this project aims to develop new tools and catalyze new ways to conduct access to justice research; target key policy openings at the country level to guide access to justice priorities and support; and build recognition of access to justice as a key priority, at both national and global levels.

Project ID


Project status



36 months

IDRC Officer

Adrian Di Giovanni

Total funding

CA$ 900,000


Kenya, Sierra Leone


Governance and Justice

Project Leader

Felix Conteh


Centre for Alternative Policy Research and Innovation

Institution Country

Sierra Leone

Project Leader

Conrad Bosire


Katiba Institute

Institution Country


Project Leader

Trevor Farrow


Canadian Forum on Civil Justice

Institution Country


Institution Website